Take a breath and set your priorities

You might have had people pointing out that you should focus on one aspect versus the other, while you believed you were capable of doing all at once.

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When you started out as an entrepreneur, did you ever feel you had so many ideas in your head? So much that you wanted to do?

Perhaps you wanted to manage a fashion boutique, also open that cafe you always had in mind and launch a new magazine because no one has executed one with that theme yet.

You might have had people pointing out that you should focus on one aspect versus the other, while you believed you were capable of doing all at once. You may have the resources, time and money to be able to manage all of your ideas, but is it really possible to achieve so much when you are in the first few years of entrepreneurship?

I am one of those people – someone who has so much that they want to do. I work best juggling several projects at a time. Having nothing to do slows me down. I work best under pressure, and that is why when I have nothing to do, I come up with new initiatives, ideas or enhancements on existing projects.

I remember talking to my mentor once about the various new projects I wanted to work on. I was speaking passionately, discussing the details I had in my mind. He slowly smiled and said: “I don’t want you to burn yourself out, and while you may be good at doing all of those things together, and I know you can, you could do a better job focusing on some areas instead of all.”

His words rung in my head for days and I mentally reviewed all of the things I was working on. It seemed a lot, so I sat down and wrote everything down on paper to get a better understanding. I realised my mentor could be right. After all, he should know – he is extremely successful with an international reputation for managing million-dollar projects. I was not burnt out yet, but I could be, and the thought frightened me.

I took a notebook, grabbed my laptop and went to a quiet library where I listed my strengths, weaknesses and what projects would make sense to work on. More importantly, I assessed what I really wanted. What did I see myself doing and with the most passion?

This was not an easy exercise. Digging deep down to analyse your own strengths and having an honest conversation with yourself can be draining. But it is also a therapeutic exercise because it encourages you to let go of the elements you are not so passionate about, instead directing that energy towards the things that make sense to you.

You see, I was not the only one facing such a dilemma. Almost every entrepreneur I know has a thirst and drive to achieve more, and they believe they are capable enough of doing so.

Last week, I had a lunch with a friend who wants to open a cafe. While she was passionate about the F&B industry, she is also a partner in other businesses and wants to execute a number of non-related projects next year.

While it is good to be ambitious, driven and flexible, my mentor was right. You should dedicate your energy and time towards a few things to turn out a fantastic result instead of focusing on many things and only having a good result.

When you are in the start-up phase and surrounded by equally driven entrepreneurs like yourself, you could be tempted to do so many things. You believe you have the brains, energy, and time-management skills to do it all. The sky is the limit, is your motto. However, it is best to focus on having one successful business up and running with a good track record before jumping to the next project.

Sit down and have an honest conversation with yourself, then decide what you really should focus on. The exercise could take a day or more. Research, analyse and weigh up your options.

And the most important thing is to follow what you see yourself doing years from now; that thing you are extremely passionate about. That’s what you should be focusing on.


Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai

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